- Contributed by
- Harold Pollins
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- Harold Pollins
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- 07 August 2005
I was due to be demobbed in the autumn of 1947, just in time to start the academic year at the London School of Economics. Somehow I heard that it was possible to go on a course run by the Army Education Corps for men and women about to be demobbed and I duly found myself at Welbeck Abbey, Worksop, the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Portland. One strange feature about the building were the tramlines which led from inside the house to various places outside. We were told that they had been used by a former owner (one of the dukes, I imagine) who was disabled and used the tramlines to propel his wheelchair from place to place. I do recall one very tall ATS RSM who taught, I think, Mathematics and who went round collecting money for the fund to support the Daily Worker, the Communist newspaper. Someone objected to it and questions in Parliament were asked about her activities. One course I attended was English and the lecturer quoted some poem in which the phrase ‘denizens of the deep’ appeared. He asked us to provide a different wording to convey the same meaning. I said that having no imagination I could only suggest ‘fish’.
There were four features of the month spent on the course which were noteworthy.
First, one of the soldiers on the course was a friend from West Ham who had served in the Jewish Brigade in Italy. Second, my sister was getting married and I came home for the weekend of the marriage. The weather was very hot so we provided lots of beer and soft drinks, not that Jews are known to be drinkers, or were not then. As it happened I drank quite a bit of beer and so missed the train back to Worksop. I got the doctor to give me a chitty telling whomever it concerned that I had been unwell. When I arrived back the guard sergeant said something to the effect that he had been waiting for me and looked forward to disciplining me. (Strange that. We were due to be demobbed shortly. What difference did a bit of AWOL matter?) His face fell when I produced the doctor’s note.
The third feature of the course was a mock parliament which was put on. In the autumn of that year there was the first post-war economic crisis so the theme for the parliament was the crisis and the government’s efforts to deal with it. Since I had spent a year at university studying economics (although largely forgotten) I was chosen to lead for the government. All I had for information was a White Paper which outlined the proposals to remedy the economic problem. I more or less gave a précis of the government publication and it was therefore very boring, not helped by my being unaccustomed to public speaking, and the civilian lecturer at the college took over and gave an impassioned speech. He was a consummate performer.
And fourthly, there was the end-of-course concert. I found myself in a choir, whose conductor was a chap from Manchester called Polinsky. He later became a synagogue choirmaster but nevertheless we practised ’Jesu joy of man’s desiring’ among other songs. And I palled up with a Welshman and we two jointly sang at the concert, at interminable length, ‘Lloyd George Knew My Father’. Quite a successful concert, I understand.
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